Cheryl Oldham is the Vice President of the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Another summer has come and gone and students across the country are getting acclimated to new teachers, new classrooms, new books, and new friends. The beginning of this school year provides us with an opportunity to look back over the past 12 months at the successes and the challenges as high education standards were implemented across the country. Despite what you may have heard, the 2014–2015 school year was an overwhelming success for high standards and, more importantly, for students being taught necessary skills to thrive beyond high school.
Much of the media coverage about the Common Core State Standards would make you believe that states are running away from the standards left and right. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, no states repealed the standards during their 2015 legislative sessions. That’s right. None. In fact, teachers are using the Common Core State Standards (or their equivalent in some states) in classrooms from coast to coast, and students are beginning to reap the benefits. (Read The 74 Flashcards: 20 Basic Things to Know About the Common Core)
In a recent video from Real Learning for Real Life, Colorado educators discuss the role they played in developing our state’s new high quality assessment. Check it out!
Why is improving our education system important for businesses’ bottom lines? As Colorado business leaders know, it’s simple: Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. And a skilled and educated workforce is essential for U.S. businesses to remain competitive at home and abroad.
Cheryl Oldham, Vice President of Education and Workforce Policy with the US Chamber of Commerce, recently discussed this exact topic in a podcast from The Business Impact. During the interview, Oldham highlighted the importance of higher standards, accountability, and effective business engagement in our schools. Check it out.
As another school year begins, parents in pockets across the country, from Seattle to Long Island, are protesting what they see as excessive standardized testing. They are refusing to let their children take mandated statewide tests — an action in which anger has overtaken good judgment.
Granted, the tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law aren’t ideal. In many places, a focus on test-prep has shortchanged more effective ways of teaching. But like them or not, the tests are the most objective measures of student progress and school performance. They shouldn’t be dumped by individual parents in political protest.
Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks is the former commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center.
It might be strange to hear a retired Army guy commend the new system of standardized tests given to students from elementary to high school, but if there’s one thing military personnel know well, it’s how to measure achievement and progress.
Everything that an individual does, a unit does, even the Defense Department does is measured against a known and accepted standard. That is how we determine readiness and operational success. If our standards are off, the consequences of mission failure can be very serious.
So we take great care in developing our standards, take the time to ensure that everyone who will be assessed understands the benchmarks, and then devote effort to after-action reports to learn more about our strengths and our weaknesses.
Joanie Funderburk is in her 25th year as a math educator. She has represented Colorado on several committees with PARCC and has been an active member of the Colorado PARCC Educator Leader Cadre since Colorado became a PARCC state in 2012.
As the students of Colorado take the first round of the new state tests for math and English, many debates surrounding testing, and these tests in particular, are heating up.
As a math educator for over 25 years, including more than 19 in Colorado, I hear comments and critiques of the tests that demonstrate fear and confusion around PARCC, the testing consortium at the core of Colorado’s new assessments.
I have had the opportunity to participate in several phases of the creation of the PARCC math tests, and each time, I learned more about the test, the expectations for students, and ways that teachers could support students in being prepared for the test. These experiences gave me confidence in these tests. I hope that by explaining my reasons for this confidence, I might help alleviate some of the stress teachers, parents, and students may be feeling.
Just days after Colorado became a PARCC state in August of 2012, I traveled with about 25 other Colorado educators to Chicago to the first convening of the PARCC Educator Leader Cadre. This group met approximately twice a year, and at each convening we had the chance to ask questions, give input, and provide feedback to shape what was important to each of our states. (more…)
The higher education community came together this week to show its continued support of high academic standards and aligned assessments in K-12 education. A joint statement from Higher Ed for Higher Standards, the National Association of System Heads, and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association urges states to continue moving forward with college and career ready standards and aligned assessments.
Why is this important?
This is important because low standards in K-12 education have led to a generation of young people who believe they were prepared for life after high school when often they were not.
Let’s take a look at the data.
For the first time this school year, thousands of Colorado students took the PARCC test, also known as the Colorado Measures of Academic Success. Looking to learn more? Check out this new video from Future Forward to learn everything you need to know about our new high quality assessment. And make sure to visit our Quick Facts page for even more information on Colorado’s higher standards and more rigorous assessments.
Denver resident Pamela Norton is the founder and president of Activate.
Leading up to the controversial Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) testing in Colorado last month, several friends said they planned to pull their kids from the test.
Other friends said their kids were pressuring them to do so. My child did try that tactic, but he knew I wouldn’t agree.
I told my friends to stay strong so they could learn from the data the test would provide. I asked, “How can you help ensure your children are getting the best education if you don’t know how they are doing compared to children in the rest of the world?”
For years, we have been living on “feel-good” subjective standards that gave some of us a false sense that our school is “blue-ribbon,” with the smartest and brightest students. We’ve had only subjective standards for K-12 ever since the testing conversation began in 1959. Since then, we’ve seen many failed government initiatives and programs, until we finally obtained a bipartisan solution six years ago.
Finally, after all this work and investment, the state has implemented the Colorado Measures Academic Success (CMAS) PARCC tests so we can provide parents, teachers and schools with a benchmark and real insights to ensure our children are competitive.
This video explains how the PARCC test works, which is known as CMAS in Colorado.
by Paul Lingenfelter
Paul E. Lingenfelter is president emeritus of the State Higher Education Executive Officers association. He is now on the board of PARCC, Inc., a non-profit organization.
Earlier this month, higher education leaders in Colorado took a significant step to close the persistent gap between the number of students who enroll in college and the number who graduate.
Officials at the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) on March 8 announced that Adams State University and Aims Community College will begin using PARCC, the state’s K-12 assessment of college and career readiness, to determine whether entering college freshman are prepared to take college level courses.
This makes Adams State and Aims the first colleges in the state and the nation to agree to use or validate PARCC as a college readiness assessment to determine which students need remediation.
Why is this progress? PARCC assessments, administered through high school and aligned with the requirements for success in college, provide feedback to students long before high school graduation. High school students and their teachers will know well in advance whether they are prepared or on track to being prepared for college-credit bearing courses. (more…)
Denver resident Pamela Norton is the founder and president of Activate, mother of two, and has many friends with children across the Colorado school system.
Parents, teachers, and the larger community in Colorado are frustrated with the amount of testing in our schools. Unfortunately, to demonstrate this concern, some parents are threatening to pull students out of the statewide PARCC test. This dissenting voice should be heard, but the tactic of opting-out doesn’t solve the problem of over-testing. Instead, it reduces transparency.
I am a parent of two children, who were students at what I thought were high performing public schools. However, after my oldest graduated, I was shocked to learn that she didn’t have many of the skills needed to succeed in college. Since then, I also realized my son is behind in high school. How could a school be labeled as an A+ school yet still have 40 percent of its students needing some sort of remedial education? That doesn’t sound like an A+ to me. (more…)
Colorado Succeeds’ Vice President of Policy Luke Ragland spoke to 850 KOA this morning about the importance of the statewide assessment. He debunks many myths about testing in this interview and offers some clear reasons why parents should opt in to the tests. Listen here:
Re: “PARCC won’t solve our testing problems,” Feb. 6 guest commentary.
Michael Mazenko notes that the argument for PARCC tests is not “evidence-based.” Neither is the argument against — we haven’t even administered the test yet.
Where is the sense in spending countless hours and dollars on a new, high-quality test that seeks to solve so many of the problems associated with old standardized tests, only to trash it all based on speculation (mixed with a little politics and fear)?
I was one of the educators from Colorado involved in the development and review of PARCC test items, and I spent considerable time making sure it aligns to the standards and uses authentic text and real-world problems to cultivate a rich and engaging learning experience. While we will likely need to refine and tweak it, it’s still a good test.
The law requires us to have an assessment in place, so if we pull out of PARCC, the alternative is to start from scratch. That alone should convince naysayers to at least stay the course until we have that “evidence.”
Jessica Moore, Longmont
The Standards & Assessments Task Force, also known as the HB1202 Commission, finished its work last week with a presentation to the Joint House and Senate Education Committees at the Colorado General Assembly. The business community was represented on the task force by Donna Lynne from Kaiser Permanente and Luke Ragland of Colorado Succeeds.
Anyone watching the debate on both the state and national level knows there are a lot of discussions happening around the issue of assessment in public education.
There is no doubt we are entering a new phase of accountability in public education. We must ensure all students, regardless of background, achieve and learn within our schools.
This spring, we’ve gone through a transition period where our schools have completed their last year of the old assessment (CSAP/TCAP) and piloted new assessments. These assessments are based on new, higher academic standards, known as the Colorado Academic Standards, that have raised the bar for all of Colorado’s schools, so we can make sure our students are better prepared for college and the workforce. These standards emphasize real learning over basic memorization and test-taking skills and give students, parents and teachers clear and consistent benchmarks for every grade level.
Luke Ragland is Vice President of Policy at Colorado Succeeds, a Future Forward coalition member. This blog is a version of testimony he provided before the Colorado General Assembly House Education Committee in February 2014.
Our state’s accountability framework serves as indispensable tool for system-wide improvement.
As business leaders, Colorado Succeeds’ members know that what gets measured gets done. And the key to accurate and useful measurement lies in the ability to compare actual performance against desired outcomes.
The inability to accurately measure student growth would undermine Colorado’s capability to assess whether teachers, schools, and districts are improving student achievement. Similarly, eliminating the requirement for early literacy assessments would undercut Colorado’s ability to identify struggling readers so that they can receive targeted supports and interventions to get them back on track.
Put plainly, if we stop measuring the progress of our students, we will have no way to ensure that students don’t fall through the cracks. Statewide assessments and the related accountability framework are absolutely fundamental tools to ensure that every student, regardless of zip code, has access to a quality school.
Anti-testing proponents say that students spend too much time taking statewide tests. This is an incredibly important topic, but we need to be sure the discussion is based on facts. So, exactly how much time are students spending taking statewide assessments? The answer may surprise you: Under the new statewide assessments, the average student will spend less than 1.5 percent of total instructional time taking statewide tests.
Of course, this fact seems wholly incompatible with the commonly-accepted rhetoric surrounding tests, namely, that our students are being inundated with constant state-mandated assessments. This confusion is likely a result of the confluence of several factors, including how district-mandated tests are administered, testing windows, human resource allocation, and technology capacity.
It is important to be precise when identifying concerns related to testing so that we can address the issues actually at play. If we need to adjust testing windows, provide training to teachers, or increase technology capacity; let’s figure out solutions to those specific problems.